Opinion

My election prediction: Berewa will win

9 August 2007 at 06:58 | 569 views

By Edie P.J. Vandy, USA.

The fate of Sierra Leone’s landmark election has been sealed, just like the Nigerian elections outcome was practically a foregone conclusion the very moment outgoing President Obasanjo opined that the April 14th and 21st, 2007 elections were for him a ‘do or die’ time for his ruling PDP.

Analysis of the current political landscape in this election at home in Sierra Leone strongly favors a Berewa presidency on August 11, 2007. Berewa’s grip on power is near certain and assured. He is assured of and can count on the SLPP machinery and loyal base for support. He knows too well that he has got the backing of outgoing President Kabbah, who has a stake in this election, for it is Berewa who will define his legacy, and make him an elder statesman to retire in peace.

Now that the VP has come this far and yet so close, with three days and a little more than 72 hours left to claim what he thinks is his; he is not going to ‘sleep in his wings’ to allow the presidency to slip through his grip. No way! Berewa, since his political entrance has, and will muster every arsenal at his disposal to adjust his status from being VP to ‘his Excellency - the President’.

For Berewa(photo), this election is a ‘do or die’ contest, a must win campaign for himself, his family and his party, the SLPP. The opposition is not going to stop Berewa from becoming the next president of Sierra Leone. Not even a critical media ganging up to dethrone him. The country’s election monitors will not either. Credible as the election monitors are, their role is merely an observatory one.

Fraudulent as the election might turn out to be, if at all it is, the monitors do not have the power to overturn it, only the court does. They can critique the process, and tabloid it as sham, as they have done in every other election deemed flawed.

This current administration and power brokers need not be reminded that their jobs and office spoils that come with their contracts will come collapsing if the SLPP administration gets blown out by the opposition. Berewa and colleagues know there is a perceived threat from the APC to get even, and rewrite history albeit negatively and on a destructive path.

The fear of becoming ordinary citizens stripped of political power and their future vulnerability under a new leadership, has given them an added impetus to fight on and come out victorious. This victory path for Berewa is non-negotiable. It is a win, win or be damn. The SLPP will win the elections on their incumbency ticket. Berewa will definitely use the incumbency space to defeat his opponents in this critical election considered one of the closest fought.

A Berewa win on Saturday is an indication of a sustained campaign even before the whistle was blown. He is the most known face of all other aspirants. Solomon Berewa, and Kanja Sesay have traversed the length and breadth of the country commissioning projects, opening schools, or clinics, market centers, court barries or water wells, and crowning paramount chiefs, or opening police stations.

Berewa will secure most votes in the rural communities, for that is where the current work of this administration is much appreciated. Freetown, Bo, Makeni, Kenema and Kono are much more liberal, open-minded, more enlightened and see things differently from their rural counterparts. Don’t forget too that the VP has more campaign finance to splash on the voters. Not even the alleged USD $ 250,000 APC vice presidential auction to the highest bidder will match the SLPP budget purse.

That said, both the APC and PMDC leaderships have their eyes set on the trophy, and are equally confident and determined to emerge victorious by the end of the game. The APC and PMDC are enjoying a cozy and warm romance of convenience, with alliances and merger talks being discussed with a run-off, if at all. Margai and his PMDC will have to pitch tent with the APC to secure victory with a second ballot. Maybe, Margai (and some party loyalists) will cross-carpet, but the bulk of that support base will not budge. The SLPP can be the devil incarnate, and be damned for its failures and lack of progress, but when it comes to choice between the APC and the SLPP, south easterners will let go of their frustrations, disappointment and anger and close ranks around their party. The rank and file of the SLPP do not desire an APC comeback and governance at this time.

Nobody is dismissing the APC as a serious political contender. Berewa in all his confidence will not dismiss Ernest Koroma with a shove. Let’s be clear here. This is not about merit. It is because the SLPP made mistakes during their two terms run, that has given the APC edge, and hence the victory hype.

The opposition PMDC however stands abandoned. As a matter of fact, the PMDC political strata have lost credibility by jiving to the APC samba dance. Momentum has shifted back to the SLPP, as party faithfuls are ditching PMDC to come back to their roots. Additionally, recent APC violent rhetoric and occurrences are not helping matters either, as voters get to know the ‘real APC’, what they stand for and their governance style.

Moreover the alleged assignation attempts on both Ernest Koroma and Charles Margai have not resonated with voters, who are more eager to know the truth, and see the evidences to back up these claims.

Tom Nyuma’s political appearance is being considered as timely, and the SLPP is clearly basking in the shadow of this retired soldier, acclaimed by many south easterners as a hero. He is still popular, revered and respected. For obvious reasons, he is not liked in the north, and he is a distraction to say the least. In Kono, new dynamism is being injected into the SLPP campaign strategy, taken over by philanthropists and influential Kono indigenes, who are doing all they can to solidify the SLPP base for victory come Saturday. Kailuhun has also gone green again, according to latest campaign update.

For SLPP to win this election, the south eastern corridor must be won by 80 %. SLPP have to make meaningful gains in the north, and strong evidence supports that this is already happening. The 2002 elections showed a strong northern push for the SLPP, as was the local council elections in 2004 particularly in such districts as Kambia and Koinadugu, and some portions of Port Loko.

A repeat in these key districts will clinch an SLPP victory, with a landslide. Opinions vary on this outcome, depending on who you talk to, but Saturday 11, 2007 will make these statistics vivid and clear.

The SLPP election bus is active and truly at work, when elder statesmen like former mayor of Freetown, Henry Nathaniel Fergusson adds his voice predicting an SLPP victory. If the former mayor walks the walk and canvass his support base in Freetown,doors will be flung open for the SLPP to cash in on this all important electoral franchise, purported to be APC, or PMDC as others believe.

Analysts and commentators who’ve followed election processes in Africa, including this writer, knew from the onset that the Independent Nigerian Elections Commission (INEC) was not going to be independent and impartial.

Sierra Leone’s NEC with Christiana Thrope at the helm had done a pretty good job. But when push comes to shove, or when it boils down to a few thousand votes to make that important call, where do you think her loyalty will sway?
Credible and independent as the NEC chair is, it will be foolhardy not to say that she will have a soft spot for the incumbency, particularly for Pres. Kabbah who made that appointment, and provided her the opportunity to serve.

The upcoming elections will be saddled with a long list of logistical bottlenecks NEC will attempt to manage, or NEC to manage. The torrential rains and impassible roads have their unintended consequences. These will not help the opposition victory agenda. The Sierra Leone Police (SLP) whilst acknowledging their preparedness also hinted on their lack of ‘necessary logistics’ to manage the elections effectively. And there is the judiciary that will have to sit on the tons of petitions that will float in, even with a free and fair election run. Ernest has already taken a position on victory only for his party or chaos.On whose side will the justice system lie when approached to make judgment? Your guess is good as mine.

Some commentators equate the opposition APC local government elections for Western Area in 2004 as a pointer for victory in Saturday’s polls. They think too that history is about to repeat itself as it did in 1967. The fact that has not been presented strongly is cardinal to the party’s defeat in Freetown in those days. The APC won because the SLPP did not field the people’s candidates.

Their base was marginalized in the symbol allocation, and the party went for money. They allowed name recognition, and wads of cash by friends and colleagues who rqan on the party’s ticket, and what happened that day was a determined party base rejecting their own by boycotting the polls.

SLPP supporters did not vote in their numbers and the ones that did were overran by the APC voters who were out hungry for victory. It was a lapse, a blunder paid for dearly, and now being corrected, by the fact that candidate selection was largely deemed fair and transparent, free from headquarters’ influence unlike in 2004.

Saturday August 11, 2007, will witness SLPP renaissance voters to be out en masse to vote their party to power again. SLPP party hopefuls and independent minds will come out in large numbers to register a protest vote to the APC for the uncalled rhetoric and the yarns their leadership has been spinning on the party’s ugly past, their glorification of Stevens and Momoh, and their vision of taking the country back to the old APC days, characterized as a lost era.

Many voters don’t want to be a part of that any longer. This election is really not about the SLPP calling the shots or being at its best, given the opportunity and resources available to have made things better than it is currently, and given their inherent weaknesses and lapses.

It has to do in part by the failure of the opposition to demonstrate clear evidence of their establishment as a viable alternative. I think the voters are left with no choice but to give the SLPP another trial run, from the available options. It is a choice of the ‘better’ of the ‘worst’ at hand.

The IMF, in their country report on Domestic Politics outlook for 2006-07 in April 12, 2007, predicted an SLPP victory:

“The Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) is expected to remain in power through-out the forecast period .......... Given the continued hegemony of the SLPP, the Economist Intelligence Unit expects the party to win both the presidential and the legislative elections in July 2007, with the vice-president and new SLPP leader, Solomon Berewa, succeeding Mr Kabbah”.

Berewa will win with more than 55% of the votes. And there will no run-off. The former mayor of Freetown, Henry Nathaniel Fergusson is predicting a 65 % landslide victory for the SLPP. Hate or love the VP, but after August 11, 2007, we will be dealing with him as the country’ next president. Nigerians hated the guts of Umaru Yar’Adua pre and post elections. But today, they are still screeching and learning to dealing with him as their leader.

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